Total Talent Management

Reference checks

Last updated: August 10, 2023

Reference checks are required prior to extending an offer to a final candidate for all campus positions and professional staff positions in the UW Medical Centers, whether the candidate is internal or external.

Though typically only the top candidate’s references are checked, you may check references for multiple candidates if you need additional information in order to rank finalists.

Benefits of Reference Checking

In addition to interviews, reference checks are a critical component of demonstrating careful and thorough consideration of the candidate’s recent and past performance.

Reference checks can:

  • Verify information the candidate has provided.
  • Offer additional information on a candidate’s skills, performance, knowledge, and work history from a source other than the candidate themselves.
  • Help you assess the candidate’s potential for success in the position. Past performance is the best predictor of future success.
  • Help you rank candidates and move to a final selection.
  • Protect the University from claims of negligent hiring.

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Obtaining References

The candidate should provide you with a minimum of three professional references, including name, phone number, email address and a description of the working relationship to the candidate.

It is recommended that at least two reference checks be completed prior to extending an offer of employment.

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Acceptable References

References should be current and previous supervisors or managers who are familiar with the candidate’s work performance. For those new to the workforce or with limited work experience, references from former professors, teachers, or volunteer work supervisors are acceptable.

Absent work or educational references, references such as family members or personal friends of the candidate may be obtained. When non-work references are used, the reference checker should document why other references are unavailable.

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Use of social media in hiring and decision-making

The University has established Social Media Guidelines for the use of social media in a wide variety of business process, including employment. Per the guidelines, it is recommended that social media resources are not used for pre-employment hiring and promotion decision-making.

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In order to complete their profile in UWHIRES, all applicants provide acknowledgement and permission to the UW to contact references regarding their education and work history. During interviews, remind candidates that you will be checking their references if they are a top candidate. If a candidate requests that their current supervisor not be contacted, you may still proceed with checking their other references and may extend an offer contingent upon a favorable reference from their current supervisor.

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Conducting the reference check

When checking references, it is important to treat all candidates similarly, whether internal or external applicants. Reference inquiries should:

Conduct references by phone when possible so that you can clarify responses if needed. Using the  form helps you consistently ask the same questions of each reference. The form will also help you avoid asking questions that may violate federal, state, or local laws or UW policy.

If the reference is reluctant to provide information, assure them that the candidate has consented to the reference check process. If the individual is still reluctant to provide information, ask what they would be willing to provide or if there is someone else you can speak with. At minimum, attempt to verify dates of employment, position held, and if they would rehire the candidate into their former position. If you are unable to get a substantive reference from the current manager or supervisor, consult with your employment representative or HR consultant.

If you have questions or concerns regarding information you receive from a reference, speak with your employment representative or HR consultant, who will assist you in determining the appropriate action to take.

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Current or former UW employees

When the finalist for a position is a current or former UW employee, you must do two things before making a final offer:

1. Obtain a reference from the candidate’s current (or most recent) UW supervisor. If the immediate supervisor is unavailable or if the employee asks that you not contact their current UW supervisor, you should request help from your HR employment representative.

2. Request a review of the candidate’s official personnel record:

  • Campus — Contact your HR consultant, who will provide a summary of any documented performance or employee relations issues that occurred over the last three years of the candidate’s employment at the UW.
  • Medical Centers — Employment representatives or the department must request a review of the candidate’s official personnel record. Your HR consultant will provide a summary of any documented performance or employee relations issues that occurred over the last three years of the candidate’s employment at the UW.

Use the Request for Review of Candidate’s Official Personnel Record form.

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Providing references for internal hires

UW supervisors must provide other UW hiring officials (including hiring managers from other UW-affiliated entities) accurate and verifiable (e.g., documented in a performance review, correspondence, etc.) information concerning job performance, experience, and other qualifications for the purpose of evaluating a current or former UW staff member for another University or UW affiliate position. Questions regarding how to respond to reference checks on internal UW candidates should be directed to your HR consultant.

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Following up on sexual misconduct disclosures

In accordance with the UW’s sexual misconduct disclosure policy, UW may contact prior employers and relevant associations regarding violations of sexual misconduct disclosed in the sexual misconduct declaration prior to official offer.

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Record keeping

You must document each reference check with legible, thorough notes of the reference’s comments.  Your notes from reference checks are part of the recruitment record and should be kept in accordance with the University’s retention schedule.

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